Bursting with change and the newness of experience…
The year stands,
A heaving monument to grace.
“The Swelling Year”, 2019
I would not have written those words this year. I almost cannot imagine the world in which I did write them. Though I first wrote them in 2012, they seemed an apt way to describe the year that lay ahead – 2020 – when I released The Swelling Year this time last year. But have the words proven false, now that we know how 2020 has turned out? I don’t believe so. Though I would use different language to describe the longing for, and prospect of, grace to come in the COVID world, God’s goodness and providence are no less real now than they were 12 months ago. Each year stands as a living, breathing monument to grace. We may not yet know the ways that grace will have proven to have been at work in 2020, but we have glimpses. And so I will rejoice, sometimes feebly, sometimes confidently, in the truth of those glimpses.
The Swelling Year (1st Anniversary Edition) is available from Lulu.com now.
Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation…
2 Corinthians 6:2
We did not choose you, would not repeat you. Grief has built upon grief: ash and smoke first, Then this, a time we can only call "Unprecedented". And how it goes on, How quickly "normal" becomes a word Stripped of all meaning. How quickly "Stay safe" Replaces "See you later." We saw none Of this coming. Jetpacks and life on Mars Were my childhood predictions, not this. Yet future creeps up unannounced, and we, Had we heard her coming, would have moved to Iceland, or bought shares in hand sanitizer. Neither would we have chosen growth, or grace Bulldozing our plans and saving us instead.
As the changing but constant expectations of a year that no-one chose keep knocking and the day of the Lord lingers and tarries from my watch-post, I long
to take this one quietly, on the bench, with Saul and the others who couldn't run the race. No shame in being worn out when the swift themselves are flagging and the flags are all at half-mast or lower. No prizes for laps of honour, least of all in a mask. Preserve breath, preserve what energy you have left, I say.
I say. Though my words burn and I would be better served not to speak but to hear. A voice like a whisper, like fire, like a victor: My yoke is easy. My burden is light. No shoulders strong enough for burdens today; even then, there is grace.
Normally a Saturday ritual, it seemed we should mark this day with pancakes too, a breakfast-table recollection of how feasting and fasting so often cohere. Even, I thought as I mixed egg and milk the night before, even mark the way that air fills the batter like pockets of life, as these very ordinary, meager elements of that life - egg, milk, flour - are mingled and Spartan fare turns to luxury.
Yet how to explain to those for whom life's a constant grazing table that sometimes, though luxury's just a whisking bowl away from our grasp, it might be meet to go without, to join the cousin in the wilderness with camel's hair and the desert's lean pantry, to turn our hearts to the sight of Life.
And how to explain to my own heart, so accustomed to gorging and hairshirts alike, that all is gift, when the breakfast ends and the drive to work begins, when Adam's curse taints feast, and fast is sometimes only a puff of air? How to tell the shriven soul to take the fast and the feast in turn, to sit at table and taste this grace as death is at work, yet life is too, as life is at work in you.